Letter to Editor: Coping with 'triggers'

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As we begin approaching deer hunting opener, hunters are eagerly bringing out their blaze orange hunting gear, making sure the deer stands are fixed up, watching the trail cameras to see if the "big one" has been by their stand, sighting in the scopes on their rifles, ready to pull the trigger. The excitement and anxiousness of taking down the 30-point buck takes over. The hunter begins to sweat, taking deep cleansing breathes, keeping both eyes open as they get the deer in their sights. Nervous that they may miss their chance.

When ready, the gun goes off, the deer falls to the ground and nerves turn to excitement as the hunter got their first deer of the season. All of this preparation for that one moment when they get to pull the trigger.

At Support Within Reach, we are often asked about "triggers." Are they real? What is a trigger? If someone gets triggered what do I do? Survivors of sexual violence often don't get to prepare for that moment. They don't get to see the trigger in their "sights."

The nerves and anxiety don't end when the deer falls to the ground. They don't get to choose when the trigger goes off. A trigger could be anything and happen at any time. Anyone who survives a serious or traumatic event could be "triggered."

A trigger is often involuntarily, reliving or re-experiencing the source of the trauma. Triggers can be anything in your day that reminds you consciously or unconsciously of the sexual violence. They could be sights, sounds, smells, taste, visiting places that remind the individual of where the assault took place. It could be a date — the anniversary of the traumatic event or having a child become the age that the survivor was when the assault occurred. Even engaging in intimate acts can be a trigger.
What can you do if you are triggered? Remind yourself that you are safe and that the worst is over. Work on being in the present. Name five things that you can see in the room, five things that you can smell or five things you can hear right now. These techniques are called "grounding techniques" that can bring you back to the present. Use deep cleansing breaths, not through the chest but through the stomach. When you take these deep breathes put both feet on the
Floor. You will feel your shoulders relax and your heart rate return to normal.
If this happens to you, you're not alone. Support Within Reach is available 24/7 with trained staff who are able to support and listen to you. There is hope. There is healing. Contact 444-9524 or at 1-800-708-2727.